Leicester Secular Society


The Dearing Report: Extracts


This report, entitled The Way Ahead, and available in PDF form, was commissioned by the Church of England and is remarkably frank about their intent to use Church schools to gain converts to Anglicanism. The following are extracts from Chapter 3: the bold italics highlight points we wish to draw attention to, and /// indicates omissions.

The Church's need to reach the young

The Church has a major problem in attracting young people to its services as a means of discharging its mission, and one that causes much concern. This bears directly on the future of the Church. In contrast the Church has some 900,000 young people attending its schools. Not all of these schools are everything that they might be, but our experience is that the vast majority give their pupils the experience of the meaning of faith and of what it is to work and play in a community that seeks to live its beliefs and values. /// the fundamental characteristics of a Church school /// include meaningful daily worship and quality religious education as well as a distinctively Christian ethos. //////

We do not have a detailed analysis of Church attendance by young people under and over eleven years old. Observation suggests that attendance by those over eleven is a modest proportion of the 175,000 children who are currently counted as attending Church services on Sunday. One of the Review Group's central concerns is that, with our limited provision for this age group in Church secondary schools, we are not able to provide secondary school places for more than one in five of the children attending Church primary schools. This means that we are losing contact with most of the Church primary school children just at the time of life when they need answers to their questions and support in their faith. It is not that there is a lack of demand for places in many of our secondary schools. /// The gap between available places and demand for them is increasing: a reverse image of attendance at church services. We conclude that while current practice in some parishes, and perhaps many, may not place Church schools at the centre of their mission, without the Church schools the Church would be reaching only a small minority of young people. We also conclude that the Christian life of parishes and the experience of staff and pupils in Church schools are enriched once there is an affirming relationship between them //////

We have also noted that through the children attending its schools, the Church has an opportunity to reach out to parents. The 900,000 children provide access to parents, very many of whom would otherwise have no contact with the Church. As of necessity adults will increasingly be engaged in the practice of lifelong learning. If Church schools can become family learning centres in response to this development, so also the opportunity to reach out to parents will be enhanced. It has been put to us that a measure of the effectiveness of Church schools should be found in the number of young people they bring into Church services or other Church activities for children. Whether they come into Church or not, Church schools are giving them the opportunity to know Christ, to learn in a community that seeks to live by his word, and to engage in worship.

Where pupils come from homes which are not Christian, or only nominally Christian with parents who have little knowledge of the Bible, this is a gift they would not otherwise experience. For those from Christian homes it will help to develop their faith and endow them with knowledge they can pass on to their own children. To the extent that they do not go to church in their teen years or in their twenties, it may well be that the Christian grounding at school will bring them into church when they have families of their own. The justification for Church schools lies in offering children and young people an opportunity to experience the meaning of the Christian faith. //////

The policy of inclusiveness is most apparent in Church schools where, over the years, the community has become predominantly one of minority ethnic families, notably Muslim or Sikh. In these cases the school may be predominantly or even wholly of children of these faiths. We find that, in these cases, the schools are respectful of the faith of the parents, but nevertheless offer the children an experience of the Christian faith, both through the everyday life of the school and through inclusive forms of worship. The advice to us was that parents welcome the opportunity to send their children to a faith school where there is belief in God. The policy of inclusiveness extends also to children of no faith where, without seeking to convert those children to the faith, the school offers the practice of faith, worship and a school life founded on Christian values, all of which give the children an opportunity to make an informed choice that they might otherwise not experience.